From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Is the Biden documents story really a story?
Date January 12, 2023 12:30 PM
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Also, Lindsey Graham wrongly claims that only Fox News is covering the issue. Plus, a host of media maneuvers and the latest on Damar Hamlin. Email not displaying correctly?
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Is the Biden documents story really a story?
President Joe Biden outside the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Lead of the day: “Move over Hillary Clinton’s emails; make room for Joe Biden’s documents.”

That was written by NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald ([link removed]) on Wednesday.

The point? Republicans have jumped on the discovery of classified documents found at an old office used by Biden after he was Vice President and before he launched his presidential campaign in 2019. And they want to make comparisons to when the FBI searched the Mar-a-Lago home of former President Donald Trump to uncover dozens of top secret documents.

Seitz-Wald wrote, “The differences between the two cases are significant. But even Democrats acknowledge the issue will give the new GOP-controlled House a fresh line of attack against the White House and may help Trump neutralize or counteract one of the most potent charges against him.”

Seitz-Wald wrote that before his NBC News’ colleagues Carol E. Lee and Ken Dilanian reported ([link removed]) later Wednesday that Biden’s legal team discovered another batch of documents at a location separate from the first office. Lee and Dilanian wrote, “The discovery came during searches that followed the initial discovery in November of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president at his former think tank office. That effort led to the discovery of additional documents of interest to federal officials reviewing the matter, one of the sources said.”

So expect the complaints to spin into full-blown outrage with this second discovery. Earlier this week, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said Biden did “exactly the same thing that he has accused Donald Trump of doing.” (That is not true, by the way. Biden turned over his discovered documents; the documents at Trump’s residence were discovered after subpoenas were ignored, and an FBI search with a warrant.)

Meanwhile, Trump took to his Truth Social and wrote, “​​When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” (Actually, seeing as how the White House is a secure location and that’s where the president actually works, I’m guessing classified documents would probably be OK there.)

David Brock, a former right-wing journalist who went on to start several liberal super PACs, told Seitz-Wald, “If I were them (Republicans), I would be doing exactly what they’re doing, which is to muddy the waters.”

It’s up to the media to not allow those waters to be muddied. This is now a time for the media to be especially responsible in its coverage.

Is this Biden story worth covering? Yes. No doubt about it. News outlets absolutely need to learn more about the documents Biden had and how secure they were and what exactly was in them. The story should not be dismissed.

But it shouldn’t be overblown either. Let’s learn more.

So, yes, this is a story. What is not a story — at this time — is trying to create an equivalence between what Biden has done and what Trump did.

That brings us to Wednesday’s White House press conference …

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** Pushing back
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Fox News’ Peter Doocy had a somewhat tense exchange ([link removed]) Wednesday during a press conference with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre over the documents found at Biden’s former office. At one point, he asked Jean-Pierre, “How can President Biden be trusted moving forward with America’s secrets?”

Jean-Pierre answered that Biden didn’t know the documents were there and that they were turned over as soon as the documents were discovered.

The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona pointed out ([link removed]) that South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham later said on air to Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, “Well, No. 1, thank God for Peter. You got a room full of reporters and he was the only person to ask the administration (about the documents). Peter was the only guy.”

That is an outright lie.

In fact, Doocy’s exchange might not have even been the most confrontational.

The first reporter called upon by Jean-Pierre on Tuesday, the Associated Press’ Zeke Miller, asked about the documents with the second question of the press conference ([link removed]) . He followed up with two additional questions about the documents.

That was just the start. The next three reporters — all from various news outlets — asked questions about the documents, including CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe. The exchange between an especially persistent O’Keefe might have been the most contentious of the day with O’Keefe seemingly taking a verbal jab at Jean-Pierre and her obligation to answer for the president.

That led Jean-Pierre to interrupt O’Keefe to say, “Ed, we work very well together. We don’t need to have this kind of confrontation. Ask your question and I will answer it the best that I can.”

O’Keefe then followed up with several more questions about the documents. Later, several more reporters, including NBC News’ Kristen Welker, asked questions about the documents before Doocy was called upon.

Yet, Graham insisted Doocy was the only one asking questions.

But that didn’t stop Graham from also saying on Fox, “… you can’t find this story anywhere really but on Fox.”

Again, not true.

Media Matters’ Audrey McCabe and Jasmine Geonzon reported ([link removed]) that from 5 p.m. Monday (when the news broke) to 11 p.m. that night, CNN dedicated 1 hour and 47 minutes to the story, while Fox News had 29 minutes of coverage. MSNBC had 14 minutes.

Every major outlet continues to cover the story, but most are doing so responsibly — not making it out to be more than it is based on what we know right now. And while Jean-Pierre might not have liked all the questions she received Wednesday, most were necessary. And her answers, at times, were vague, which led to more questions.

The questions about comparing Biden to Trump seem like chasing a butterfly off in the distance instead of sticking to the trail. But the questions about the details of the documents were responsible. And should continue.

** Following up

One more note about Graham’s appearance on Fox News. Credit MacCallum for correcting Graham in real time that Doocy was not alone in asking questions about the documents. She said, “To be fair, there were other reporters in the room who did ask questions …”

MacCallum also asked Graham about the point that the Biden documents and the Trump documents appear to be two very different scenarios. Graham dodged the question, but at least MacCallum asked.

** Big news at NBC News

Here’s a big media move that was announced Wednesday: Rebecca Blumenstein, a deputy managing editor at The New York Times, has been named the president of editorial for NBC News. She takes over for Noah Oppenheim, who has been president of NBC News the past five-plus years.

The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin and Michael M. Grynbaum wrote ([link removed]) , “At NBC, she will inherit many of the responsibilities of Noah Oppenheim, who has been president of NBC News since 2017. He has struck a production deal with NBCUniversal, working on film and TV projects for the company. With the appointment, Cesar Conde, who oversees NBCUniversal’s news division, is turning over major parts of his marquee news brand to a highly decorated print and digital journalist, but one with little experience in television.”

They added, “In a reorganization led by Mr. Conde, who as chairman of NBCUniversal News Group also runs CNBC and MSNBC, Ms. Blumenstein will oversee household-brand shows like ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Dateline.’ Some significant parts of NBC News overseen by Mr. Oppenheim will now report directly to Mr. Conde, including the network’s flagship program, ‘NBC Nightly News,’ and the lucrative ‘Today’ franchise of morning programming. The cable channels MSNBC and CNBC do not fall under Mr. Oppenheim’s portfolio and will continue to be led by their own presidents.”

In a note to staff, Oppenheim said, “I leave with enormous pride in all that we’ve accomplished together.” He called NBC News the “gold standard” and wrote, “Sharing this front-row seat to history with the smartest, most committed and most compassionate colleagues has been a tremendous privilege.”

At the Times, Blumenstein, 56, oversaw the news outlet’s recruiting operations. She joined the Times in 2017 after working at the Wall Street Journal, where she worked as foreign correspondent and, then, as deputy editor in chief.

Mullin and Grynbaum have more of the details.

In addition, Conde also announced that Libby Leist has been named Executive Vice President, TODAY and Lifestyle and Janelle Rodriguez has been named Executive Vice President, NBC News NOW.

One more media move of note: Newsday has named Rochell Bishop Sleets as its next managing editor, making her second in charge of the newsroom. She has been the news director at the Chicago Tribune, where she has worked for the past 16 years.

** New gig

CNN’s Pamela Brown is getting a new role at the network. She will become CNN’s chief investigative correspondent and anchor. In this new role, Brown will join the network’s investigative team, while continuing as an anchor, filling in throughout the week.

Most recently, Brown anchored the weekend primetime edition of “CNN Newsroom.” She also has been a senior Washington correspondent and covered the Trump administration as the network’s senior White House correspondent.

** CNN’s news lineup

CNN is shuffling its daytime lineup. The new schedule has John Berman, Kate Bolduan and Sara Sidner hosting from 9 a.m Eastern to noon. “Inside Politics” with anchor John King will continue in its noon to 1 p.m. slot. The 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. block will be anchored by Brianna Keilar, Boris Sanchez and Jim Sciutto.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote ([link removed]) , “As a result of the programming changes, ‘CNN Newsroom’ anchors Victor Blackwell and Alisyn Camerota will transition to new roles. Blackwell will move back to hosting the network’s weekend morning show from Atlanta. Camerota, the network said, will focus on the 10 p.m. program, a time slot she has been guest hosting with Laura Coates for months. Coates, CNN said, will focus solely on anchoring the 11 p.m. hour.”

There is no official start date just yet for the new schedule, but it should happen in the next few months.

** Great news

Actually, make it incredible news. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was discharged from a Buffalo hospital on Wednesday — just nine days after he collapsed on the field and needed to be resuscitated by CPR. He has been cleared to continue his rehabilitation at home, but full recovery could take several months.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters Wednesday, “We're obviously grateful first and foremost that he's home and with his parents and his brother, which is great. I'm sure it's felt like a long time since he's been able to be home naturally there, and I'm sure it's a great feeling.”

The Bills host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.

That leads me to this excellent story from “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell …

** Valuable reporting
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There’s no question that Hamlin’s life was saved because of the quick work of first responders and medical personnel on the field when Hamlin collapsed. But Hamlin’s scare happened at an NFL game, which has top-level medical people who constantly practice what to do in such emergencies.

What would happen if there was a similar situation at a youth game where there isn’t such expert medical personnel?

O’Donnell went to an ice rink for a story ([link removed]) on what parents and coaches should do if a youth player goes into cardiac arrest.

This is an important story that was well timed and well executed. Kudos to O’Donnell and CBS News.

** Correction

In Tuesday’s newsletter item about the death of New York Times political writer Blake Hounshell, I typed a wrong word when transcribing executive editor Joe Kahn’s memo to the Times’ staff. Kahn said that Hounshell “distinguished” himself as the Times’ lead politics newsletter writer and political observer.

** Media tidbits
* Politico’s Garrett M. Graff writes about Hounshell in “In Remembrance of a Beloved and Very Online Journalist.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times’ Ryan Mac and Kate Conger with “Twitter Said to Consider Selling User Names to Boost Revenue. ([link removed]) ”
* My Poynter colleague Kristen Hare with, “The George Santos story shows how local news AND institutions should work.” ([link removed])
* People’s Georgia Slater with “CNN's Clarissa Ward Is Pregnant, Expecting Third Baby While On-Site Covering the War in Ukraine.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times’ Jenny Gross with “How Finland Is Teaching a Generation to Spot Misinformation.” ([link removed])
* Semafor’s Reed Albergotti with “The media loved Sam Bankman-Fried; it hated Brian Armstrong.” ([link removed])
* Mediaite’s Alex Griffing with “Politico Reporter Exits After Tweet Slamming Pope Benedict as ‘Pedophile Protector and Hitler Youth Alumnus.’” ([link removed])

** Hot type

The Ringer’s Alison Herman and Miles Surrey with “The Winners and Losers of the 2023 Golden Globes.” ([link removed])

More Golden Globes. The Atlantic’s Shirley Li with “The Speeches That Saved the Golden Globes.” ([link removed])

And one more: The Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio and Meg James with “With scant viewing for its TV return, what’s next for the Golden Globes?” ([link removed])
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at .

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* Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media ([link removed]) (Seminar) — Apply by Feb. 17 ([link removed]) .
* Lead With Influence ([link removed]) (Feb. 2023) (Seminar) — Register by Jan 30 ([link removed]) .

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